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The Year Ahead


by Glen Emerson Morris
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Since this column began a year ago, business use of the Internet has gone from an esoteric novelty to a commonplace necessity. 1995 may well be remembered in the advertising marketing world as the year of the Internet. By the end of 1995, nearly every major business in the country will be online, or planning to be, soon. However great the changes have been in the last year, the changes coming in the next year are likely to be even greater.

The growth of the Internet in 1995 was a cross between the Western Frontier and the 1849 Gold Rush. 1996 will be the year civilization comes to the Frontier, and the shootouts over territorial rights and responsibilities, will effect how business is done on the Internet over the next decade.

The primary adversaries will be the public and government, with business caught in the middle. Governments worldwide, increasingly alarmed at the ability of citizens to collect and share information in private, are imposing restrictions on Internet communication that may make it extremely difficult to use the Internet for business purposes.

One of the primary problems is encryption, which is absolutely necessary for financial transactions, especially those requiring some sort of legally binding signature. The U.S. government doesn't want encryption technology available to the public that it doesn't have the ability to easily decrypt. Few businesses, worldwide, want to use encryption systems that any government has a key to.

Another major problem yet to be resolved is the issue of jurisdiction. Questions like "Can a business in one state be prosecuted if the advertising material it places online is found to violate the legal standards of another state, or another country" will be a major issue in 1996. So far, the U.S. government's position is "Yes it can". It will take a great deal of lobbying on the part of marketing and advertising interests to change the government's position.

Business will be facing issues with consumers in 1996, as well as the government. Consumer groups going online with databases designed to track product quality and safety issues, are likely to present a growing public relations problem. The Intel Pentium disaster was just the first major example of the potential problems here. Some corporations are already working on strategies to limit consumer groups online services through legislation and lawsuits. However, given the nature of the Internet, these strategies are likely to backfire. The best defense is to provide quality products and services, and deal with any criticism on the Net quickly and honestly. To date, there is no Ralph Nader equivalent on the Internet, but it's only a matter of time before there is.

On the positive side, 1996 will offer the lowest communication prices in history, and the best network tools as well. It has never been possible to reach so many people for so little money, and in so little time. By the end of 1996, setting up a Web server will be about as easy as setting up a telephone answering machine, and about as common. Currently, it takes someone with special expertise to set up a Web server. However, several major software companies are developing software applications that will make it possible for average computer users to design and set up Web servers with little effort. The new Web server from Apple is just one example. The monopoly on Web servers that belonged to Unix systems in 1995 will disappear in 1996, as Macintosh and Windows Web servers gain market share. As a result, Web server maintenance costs will decline in 1996.

Another problem likely to be resolved in 1996, is the bottleneck of the current telephone system. The most common high speed modem used by consumers is 14.4Kbps, yet the speed needed for Web server communications is 56Kbps. Compression systems are under development which will allow the equivalent capacity of a 56Kbps through a standard low cost consumer modem, and should be available by mid-1996 at the latest. When this happens, Web servers will become true mass communications systems.

The Internet offers marketing and advertising new opportunities and new risks. In 1995, most businesses staked their claim on the Internet. In 1996, they will have to defend it.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.


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